PHOENIX -- State lawmakers voted Monday to bar local governments from requiring background checks before individuals can sell property to one another. But proponents insist the legislation is not about guns.
SB1122, given preliminary House approval on a voice vote, would spell out that no government can require that the seller of personal property search federal or state databases before transferring private property.
It also says that such transactions do not have to be handled through a third party. Federal law mandates background checks when a licensed firearm dealer sells a weapon. But there is an exemption for the person-to-person sale of weapons.
And there is no mandate to have these transfers handled by a gun dealer who would be required to see if the buyer is legally eligible to possess a weapon.
While several states have enacted their own mandates, there is no requirement for background checks in Arizona law. The closest to a local restriction is a Tucson ordinance that requires background checks when weapons are sold in city-owned buildings like the convention center.
Rep. Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe, questioned why the legislature would want to preempt these in the future.
But Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, said Epstein is off-base in presuming the bill has anything to do with firearms transfer. He pointed out that the word 'guns' is nowhere in the bill, saying it could just as easily apply to anything else.
That suggestion drew derision from Rep. Randall Friese, D-Tucson.
"No one is talking about background checks for refrigerator sales or microwave sales or dining room furniture sales or kitchen table sales or carpet sales or doorway sales or door jamb sales or door knob sales or door key sales,” he said. "Let's just be serious.”
Kern, however, said he's not bothered even if it would bar background checks on gun sales, He said it's none of the government's business.
"If I want to sell ... any of my personal property, including weapons, I should be able to do that,'' he said.
And Kern brushed aside questions of whether an item could wind up in the hands of someone who would abuse it. "It's up to me as a responsible seller to make sure I know who the buyer is,” he said. "It's called America and it's called the Second Amendment.”
Friese countered that he believes most Americans and most Arizonans want to close the so-called "gun show loophole” where individuals are free to sell multiple weapons as long as the items are the seller's personal property.
Kern said he doesn't see the issue in those terms.
"My colleagues on the other side of the aisle are consistently against the Second Amendment the way they speak,” he said. "We should be limiting government at every turn and every chance we get.”
Rep. Kristen Engel, D-Tucson, suggested proponents of the legislation, which already has been approved by the Senate, are deluding themselves if they believe this will forever preclude background checks. She said nothing in the measure blocks a future legislature -- or even voters -- from deciding they want to follow the lead of other states like Oregon.
And Engel, an attorney, said it is the most recent enactment that always takes precedence.
In separate action, the Senate gave preliminary approval to HB2216. It spells out that state or local government cannot limit the sale of firearms to only "smart” weapons which are designed to be fired only by the authorized owner or whoever that person designates.
The House already has approved the measure.